Some of the most talented young footballers in Scotland came together at Hampden Park this month as they became the latest intake for the Scottish FA Performance School.
Almost 100 youngsters were joined at the national stadium by their parents, performance coaches and school head teachers for the official induction to the school, where football education is a part of the curriculum.
They were welcomed by new Scottish FA Performance Director Brian McClair before being enrolled at one of the seven Regional Performance Schools, which launched in August 2012 as part of the SFA's elite player development programme.
Seven coaches from different regions have been appointed to work in conjunction with the schools and the players’ clubs to enhance their technical skills at a key stage of their development.
Every year, each school takes up to 20 of the most talented under-12 players in their region – both boys and girls – and provides a minimum five extra coaching sessions focusing on skills development. Over a four-year period, this will provide the most talented young footballers throughout the country with an extra 800 sessions.
Former Manchester United and Scotland star McClair, who began his new role in June, offered words of encouragement to the new recruits, for whom he believes the performance schools, complemented by their club development, will equip them with the necessary skills to thrive on and off the pitch.
“Firstly, it is about having fun and enjoying the experience: it is important each player in the Performance School programme appreciates the opportunity to play football as part of the curriculum,” he said.
“I am pleased that the feedback already from the first three years has been positive not only in skills development but educationally.
“For those here today, the message is to work hard, practice and never stop chasing your dream. The coaches will be on hand to support them throughout their journey, their teachers will be there to ensure the correct balance between football and study and I would like to thank every head teacher for their faith in what we are looking to achieve.
“Players will develop at different ages and stages but the over-riding philosophy of the performance school environment is about developing skills on an individual basis.”
SFA Chief Executive Stewart Regan believes the success of the performance schools, now in their fourth year, will, in the long run, help improve the Scottish game all the way to the very top.
“Our national coaches, Gordon Strachan and Anna Signeul, have spoken passionately about the need for young players to spend more quality time with the ball, developing their skills and technique," he said. "This philosophy is at the heart of the Regional Performance School programme.
“It is fitting that the induction takes place at Hampden Park: that is where every player in the performance schools should aspire to one day return to play for their country. We will work together with the clubs to give each young player the best opportunity possible to fulfil their potential.”
The seven Performance Schools and their coaches:
Braidhurst High School (Motherwell) - James Grady
Broughton High School (Edinburgh) - Greg Miller
Graeme High School (Falkirk) - Ian Ross
Grange Academy (Kilmarnock) - Andrew Goldie
Hazlehead Academy (Aberdeen) - Stuart Glennie
Holyrood Secondary School (Glasgow) - Brian McLaughlin
St John’s High School (Dundee) - Iain Jenkins
For more information on the Scottish FA Performance Schools and the overall Performance Strategy, visit scottishfa.co.uk/performance.
Image courtesy of ScottishFA.co.uk.